Now it’s time to analyze the plan

The Vision 20/20 longterm plan for Greene County enhancements, presented to the Vision 20/20 steering committee by consultant Zack Mannheimer and members of his Iowa 360 team two weeks ago, opens a treasure chest of possibilities for the county’s future.

Mannheimer handed off the ambitious plan to the Vision 20/20 committee. Now it’s the committee’s turn to put it under a microscope and examine it closely.

What components could be achieved in the next year? What would those components cost?

What would be the funding sources for the top priorities? What resources from state and federal grants, private foundations and other entities could supplement local funds?

What’s the optimal path to follow for local fundraising efforts?

Part of Mannheimer’s contract with the local Vision 20/20 committee calls on his Iowa 360 team’s seasoned expertise at locating “outside” money, probably in the form of matching grants, for priority projects. Over the next few months, Iowa 360 will seek out grant opportunities, and evaluate those funds with detailed analyses on a project-by-project basis.

Meanwhile, the local steering committee will take a look at the possible pool of local investments for the various projects targeted by the plan.

Mannheimer’s recommendation is to combine fundraising efforts for several projects into a unitary capital campaign of several million dollars. The steering committee will certainly consider that course of action. It will also discuss whether separate campaigns would be a more advisable option.

Every county and community is different.

Mannheimer has provided a list of Iowa communities that have had great success at local capital campaigns. Vision 20/20 will contact each of those communities to see how they did it, and decide whether to use one or more of them as models for efforts in Greene County.

But on one point, the steering committee appears to be totally committed. The revised Greene County Community School improvement plan, which envisions a new high school adjacent to a regional career academy at the north edge of Jefferson, is the number one priority.

The school plan was developed separately from Vision 20/20, and should continue that way. Because it came to life about the same time as Vision 20/20, it was natural for the Iowa 360 team to include it in the Vision 20/20 proposals. But in reality it’s a separate entity, and the local Vision 20/20’s role will be to help bring it to a successful conclusion first and foremost.

In fact, the revised school plan will provide a good test of what’s possible in terms of local private sector fundraising.

The school plan, as presented by four local residents and Iowa Central Community College president Dan Kinney at last month’s school board meeting, envisions a significant portion of the cost to come from non-tax sources.

How successful that public-private partnership proves to be will help tell Vision 20/20 what might be possible for local fundraising for its own projects in the next few years.

The breathtaking plan presented to Vision 20/20 by Mannheimer is not a sprint; it’s a marathon over several years. It will probably go through several iterations in the future, as residents of the county weigh in on its pros and cons.

But the bottom line is that a lot of residents put their heads together, and a number of organizations dug deep to fund the study, because they care deeply about Greene County’s future. That’s always been the culture of Greene County. Development has been at the top of the priority list here for decades.

Some of the projects may prove to be “a bridge too far.” We’ll see. That’s up to all of us to decide.

But we know what will happen if we don’t get proactive about our future: Nothing.

It’s a hard fact that a number of rural Iowa counties will continue to decline in every important way.

Greene County is better than that.

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Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161